Saturday, November 10, 2012

New Eyes in Mexico

Standing before the entrance to the National Museum
of Archeology, are me and my traveling companions (l-r):
Rob Hard, GiAnna Wyatt, me, Yusfia Jimenez, and
Matthew Thomas.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I'll never forget how my eleventh grade English teacher, Mr. Ted Mann, introduced our first reading of Shakespeare. He paced across the front of the classroom, his eyes shimmering with the overflow of his admiration. He said, "I envy each one of you. Shakespeare is the most important figure in English literature. His themes are as powerful and relevant today as they were 400 years ago. I wish I could go back and experience Shakespeare again for the first time."

I've just spent the last three days with a trio of journalists visiting Mexico City for the first time. The group included Matthew Thomas, a veteran journalist of many years; Rob Hard, a business travel writer in his early forties, and GiAnna Wyatt, a recent journalism school grad who's landed her dream job with Prevue, a travel magazine.  GiAnna bubbled with joy for her new job, her first press trip, and her craft. Her enthusiasm overflowed onto me, drawing me back to my early days in journalism, my first job as a writer and editor and settling into adult life.

The Aztec Calendar can be seen inside the National Museum
of Anthropology in Mexico City.
I've been to Mexico City several times, yet the exuberant reactions to this grand dame of cities from individuals with such diverse backgrounds pervaded my vision during the trip. We all effused over the magnificent statuary, upscale decor and sparkling marble at the Marquis Reforma Hotel & Spa where we had spacious accommodations and superb food service. I found my eyes widening along with my companions at the broad, tree-lined streets and nodding with gusto as our tour guide, Jose Alfredo Martinez, extolled the virtues of his city like a husband whose love for his wife grows stronger as the years go by. We went to several places within Mexico City that I had never before seen--Chapultepec Park and Castle, the Zocalo, the National Museum of Anthropology. I tingled with the cosmopolitan vibe and marveled anew at how Mexico infuses the ancient with the contemporary as if the two are the yin yang of Mexican culture.

Each of my travel companions had similar concerns about safety and security before arriving in Mexico City. The US news media frequently over blows reports of crime and violence within Mexico, casting dark shadows to the safety of traveling here. It's a fact that drug cartels wield enormous power,  political corruption is legendary, and Mexico has a high rate of violent crime. The execution-style killings that make headlines in the US happen in outlaying areas where tourists seldom visit. There are neighborhoods within minutes of my home near Durham, North Carolina which I avoid because of rampant crime and violence. As we drove and walked around Mexico City my travel companions repeatedly remarked at how they didn't feel any more threatened here than in their own neighborhoods within San Francisco, Chicago and Miami. 

Seeing Mexico City through fresh eyes over the past three days, I was reminded of how powerful a first-time experience can be. You can never do something again for the first time. But you can always open your eyes and understanding to fresh impressions.

So I ask again, when was the last time you did something for the first time?